Jessica Simpson Gets Lucky, Learns to Love Herself

I’m almost ashamed to admit this publicly, but I was actually intrigued by this cover line on the September issue of Lucky:

Jessica Simpson on finally loving her body

The celebrity-learns-to-love-herself tale is a tough sell. On the one hand: isn't appearing on magazine covers confirmation enough that you've conformed to society's beauty standards? Am I really supposed to empathize—or worse, sympathize—with the skinny woman with flawless skin smiling at me from the pages of Lucky? On the other hand: the fame that lands stars in magazines also leads to unwarranted scrutiny, like the massive uproar Simpson faced when she had the audacity to go on stage in a pair of high-waisted jeans. No one cares if I show up to work with a fresh pimple and undereye bags (which—heads up, co-workers!—I totally will be tomorrow), but the bar is set much higher for celebrities.

How does Lucky address Simpson's transformation?

She stopped fighting her hourglass silhouette, for instance, after realizing that “we all obsess over looking like the perfect Barbie type, and that’s not always what’s beautiful. It’s about making peace with yourself.”

Which is great and all, but I think the key point here is not that she arrived at that conclusion, but how she got there. How did she make peace with herself? Therapy? Yoga? Perhaps a steadfast refusal to read women’s magazines?

This sea change came out of her globe-spanning journey for her VH1 show, The Price of Beauty—a trip that also provided the tools to diversify her wardrobe.

Because, you know, picking up some accessories is totally on par with learning to love yourself. That is one twisted sentence, Lucky.

The paragraph goes on to list exactly what J. Simps found so compelling about foreign cultures, and her highlights are exactly what you’d expect: Bright colors! Caftans! Bangle bracelets! Which means all that gallivanting could have been scrapped in favor of a trip to the local newsstand, because brights, bangles, and caftans are exactly what every fashion editor in the history of women’s magazines considers “exotic.”

There are precious few other details to parse—are we to believe that Jessica learned to love her body because of the caftans she so admired in Morocco?  Who knows? Instead we get another reinforcement of the Eat Pray Love-style message that empowerment is best acquired via globe-trotting. I don’t mean to downplay the powerful shift in perspective that international travel can provide. But neither should we codify a privileged traipse through India or Morocco or Bali as a surefire remedy for flagging self-esteem. Such messages only reinforce the consumerist lifestyle magazines promote to begin with—that happiness and beauty are best achieved by spending money.

It wouldn't be fair to expect Jessica Simpson to serve as the female paragon of healthy self-esteem and cultural sensitivity. (Although there is an interesting discussion to be had on that topic, particularly if you want to consider where the $98 shoes bearing her name are manufactured, and whether she visited that country on her show.) But by twisting “Jessica Simpson loves her shape” into “Jessica Simpson went around the world for a TV show and ended up with an awesome wardrobe,” Lucky’s turned self-acceptance into a trip precious few of us will ever take.

5 thoughts on “Jessica Simpson Gets Lucky, Learns to Love Herself

  1. As an anthropology student, I find myself a little wary of the globe-trotting life-changing story when it comes to this new J.Simp show. It seems like one can just pick and choose features of another, completely different lifestyle (lowercase-b buddhism; wearing loose, colourful clothing, and the like), adapt them to our own, and feel enlightened and wordly… meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people in these countries are totally marginalized and live in poverty, indirectly because of our own excess. The “privileged traipse” you mention is precisely what I’m getting at – it’s just a traipse, nothing more.

    Who knows; if I were to do some gallivanting about in South/Southeast Asia, maybe I’d start growing my hair out and use coconut oil every day and hang up prayer flags and so forth…

  2. Thanks for this, especially the poke at _Eat, Pray, Love_. Perhaps it’s because I have less than no interest in seeing the movie and have therefore not sought out reviews and other stories about it, but you are the first person I’ve seen who has publicly acknowledged the privilege issue.

    As for the whole body-image problem: when a size U.S. 10 model is “plus-sized” (and quoted as saying she’s thrilled about that gig, because it means she can eat), I despair of a solution. (This from a recent — current? — issue of Bazaar that I read at the hair salon last week; even plus-size women, fortunately, can get their hair done.)

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